With a 5-0 score, Heron Systems’ artificial intelligence (AI) won a clear victory in aerial combat against a real F-16 pilot in the AlphaDogfight Trials. It was organized by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). Before that, he defeated all the other AI algorithms presented by other teams.
“This is a huge step forward”DARPA commentator Justin Mock commented on the result.
Over the course of three days, during which the competition lasted, several AI systems converged in the air combat simulator. They demonstrated their ability to control the F-16 fighter, as well as in the destruction of a simulated enemy in the course of classic air combat. It is noteworthy that 9 teams that took part in the competition presented their designs in less than a year since the program was announced in September 2019.
Artificial intelligence, developed by Heron’s small team of Maryland and Virginia AI specialists, has overpowered 8 other teams, including one represented by the military-industrial corporation Lockheed Martin. The latter ranked second among the AIs fighting among themselves.
According to representatives of the Heron team, even a week before the official competition, their AI algorithm was not completely ready and really did not even know how to properly control a virtual fighter. But directly at the competition, he showed himself in all his glory. In every battle, the virtual pilot used very aggressive tactics. He conducted masterful visits to the rear of the conditional enemy and inflicted accurate hits on the enemy fighter. He was even lost to a real US Air Force pilot. The pilot’s name was not disclosed, but it is indicated that he is a graduate of the Nellis fighter pilot training center, located in the state of Nevada. According to Justin Mock, the AI pilot demonstrated “superhuman precision targeting capabilities” in this battle.
In the foreseeable future, DARPA plans to deliver the simulator used in the competition to the Nellis Pilot Training Center, where other pilots can try their hand at the AI. The next step for the agency will be to move to testing AI capabilities when performing other types of combat missions in the air.
The key goal of the DARPA program is to create AI that can more actively participate in real air combat.
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